Alarming is the fact that more women and children are falling prey to trafficking and violence because of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Jessica Carigara, spokeswoman of People’s Surge still turns emotional whenever she narrates how women and children are suffering from the devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda. “Mothers or even young girls are leaving their provinces because of poverty,” she said during the Ulat Lila Forum of the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) held last Feb. 19. People’s Surge is an alliance of victims of typhoon Yolanda.
Carigara lamented, “Instead of providing livelihood, the government prioritizes infrastructure.” She added that the main source of livelihood in Eastern Visayas is agriculture. “The government could have concentrated on restoring the livelihood of the people to help us resonctruct and rebuild our lives,” Carigara said. Her parents are also farmers.
The people of Eastern Visayas are still experiencing hunger up to now, according to Carigara. That is why mothers choose to leave their families to look for jobs in other provinces and also in Manila. Some are being lured by illegal recruiters to go to Manila and nearby Cebu.
“Women by nature tend to look for means to feed their families. Since there is no sign of improvement and job opportunities in their communities, three months after the typhoon, women and even girls become vulnerable to questionable offers of some recruiters,” Cham Perez, research coordinator of CWR said.
Younger victims of trafficking
According to the CWR, the increasing number of victims of trafficking has become alarming. Citing data from the Philippine National Police, CWR said many victims of sex trafficking are children. The PNP-Women’s Desk revealed that out of the 170 cases of trafficking, 125 victims are children and 45 are women.
The CWR noted an alarming number of cases of trafficking in places destroyed by typhoon Yolanda.
“As one of the poorest regions in the Philippines, cases of illegal recruitment and trafficking in Eastern Visayas are nothing new. However, because of the vast destruction of livelihoods (due to typhoon Yolanda) and the slow response of the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III, more, especially among the youth, have become vulnerable to being enticed by illegal recruiters,” the report read.
CWR also cited a report by Plan International that five high school girls from Samar were recruited to work at night in Manila after the typhoon struck the province.
“People are already poor even before the typhoon hit our province. Our misery was doubled after the typhoon,” Carigara said. She added she is convincing the youth and the women not to leave their families but instead demand that the government acts on their much needed rehabilitation.
“They will leave the province without knowing what fortune awaits them in Manila or anywhere else. They will only work like slaves without a decent salary,” she added.
Violence against women and children
The CWR also said that despite laws protecting women and children, reported cases under RA 9262 or Anti-Violence Against Women and Children increased from 11,531 cases in 2012 to 16,517 in 2013. Reported cases of sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, unjust vexation, seduction also increased from 928 in 2012 to 1,489 in 2013.
The incidence of rape (including incest and attempted rape) also increased from 1,319 in 2012 to 1,602 in 2013. “This means a woman or a child is being victimized every one hour and 21 minutes,” CWR said in its report. The PNP-Women’s Desk data revealed that 75 percent of rape victims are children. Majority of the victims of battering are also women.
The data, according to the CWR is still conservative because there are still many cases that are not reported. “There is a culture of silence because domestic violence is being viewed as a personal matter rather than a crime. One reason could also be the relationship of the victim and the perpetrator. The victim could have second thoughts of sending the perpetrator to jail because they are relatives,” the CWR reported.
A lot of victims also do not report being raped because of fear and shame. “This is aside from the victim’s feeling of hopelessness because of the slow and expensive justice system in the country.”
The CWR said that in a country with a backward culture and where conservatism reigns, victims of violence are often being blamed for what happened to them. “She got hit because she’s a nagger. She was harassed or raped because she’s a flirt. If a girl is not good-looking, no one would believe that she was raped or harassed. When a woman does not cry people doubt if she was indeed maltreated,” CWR said in its report.
The state, which should be protecting women and children, also inflicts violence on them. Under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, data from human rights group Karaptan showed that there have been 152 victims of extra-judicial killings. Eighteen of the victims are women. Out of the 449 political prisoners, 34 are women and eight are minors.
These women, said the CWR, were incarcerated for fighting for the people’s basic rights. “Violence against women and children is a reflection of a poor and violent society. If one woman stumbles, there are many more who rise and fight. Our inspiration is the victims of typhoon Yolanda who continue to fight for what is due to them,” said Jojo Guan, executive director of CWR.